Addiction: it’s not what you think

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Only connect

It is perhaps quite safe to say most of us would associate ‘addiction’ with drugs. Through our free associative mode, we think of heroine, cocaine, injecting, skeletal creatures, and death. Some of us may even sit in judgement of ‘these people.’ We applaud efforts to restrict and offer a final solution to such addictions, including the imposition of the death penalty on traffickers. We shout down any purveyors of the liberalising drugs attitude. Unless, of course, they are dispensed under medical supervision. I have administered morphine numerous times as a Registered Nurse for the purpose of pain relief and I can tell you, my patients have not turned into junkies thereafter. Literally, they do not. Curious that.

Addiction is not restricted to drugs alone. It extends to alcohol, pornography, the internet, and yes, even to healthy things like running, the gym, yoga, etc. If is the latter list, we strangely do not call it addiction though we surely know of people who experience withdrawal symptoms if say, for a day they fail to run, go to the gym, or salute the sun.

computer useWe use science to justify our harsh treatment of those who use drugs for recreational purposes. Yet it is the same science, pursued to its logical conclusion, that shows how wrong we have been in regards to understanding addiction. Johann Hari, a journalist with the Independent newspaper (UK) gave an insightful talk on TED to prove the case.

It is a great irony of our modern world, with our reduction of the globe to a village, with our extensive communication and travel facilities, with our ability to sustain huge populations, that a large number of us remain isolated and lonely in the midst of crowds.

Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

Or as EM Forster said in his novel, Howard’s End, “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”

I am afraid no amount of acupuncture or herbs will resolve such addictions on a large scale without additional community support. I am not suggesting the road to recovery will be easy as the effects of drug addiction can be devastating. Recovery will not be simple and yes, acupuncture and Chinese medicine herbs can help significantly. The point is addiction is not about chemical dependency alone as the analgesic uses of morphine/heroine by the medical profession clearly shows. It is truly a social and political disease. As sentimental and platitudinous as it may sound, perhaps it is time we learn to reach out sincerely and genuinely to one another. After all, “[m]ost men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them,” wrote Henry D Thoreau in Civil Disobedience and Other Essays.

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